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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is ‘It’s Complicated’’s R rating unfair?

Time to complain again about how ridiculously out of whack the MPAA is. And it’s The New York Times highlighting it:

The romantic comedy “It’s Complicated” arrived at the multiplex on Friday complete with an R rating, ranking it in the same category as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Basic Instinct” in the eyes of the Motion Picture Association of America.

But there is no violence in “It’s Complicated,” and the bedroom scenes are decidedly tame by contemporary standards. Instead, the R rating — which experts say could limit the box-office potential of the Universal Pictures film — comes largely from a sequence in which Steve Martin and Meryl Streep smoke marijuana.

Now, I’d failed to even focus on the rating because I was distracted by how annoying and insulting the film is. But this is preposterous: Avatar gets a PG-13 even though it’s rife with violence on scales small and large; Sherlock Holmes gets a PG-13 even though it features more than one scene in which Holmes analytically determines how to physically take down an opponent — where to punch for maximum physical and psychological impact. What sense does that make?

It was not specifically the actual drug use that got “It’s Complicated,” about a divorced woman who has an affair with her remarried ex-husband, into this pickle, according to people with knowledge of how the decision was reached. Instead, the ratings board was concerned about what the movie did not have: a negative consequence for the behavior. (Ms. Graves said that “no scrutiny or outside influence impacts the rating of any film — period.”)

The board, according to these people, thought the scene was uproariously funny and could leave children with a strong message that smoking marijuana is fun. The opposite, of course, could be argued: One way to make young people think that marijuana is uncool is to show the white-haired Mr. Martin, 64, smoking it.

Okay, now this is really ridiculous. If the MPAA is really worried that kids will want to smoke pot because Steve Martin does, in a movie kids won’t even see, and will be totally bored with if they do, why aren’t they worried that kids will want to emulate Sherlock Holmes, the hero of a film kids will almost certainly want to see, and punch people with cool logic? I mean, those scenes in Holmes are clever and funny and perfectly illustrative of Holmes’ character… but you have to be able to make some adult distinctions to understand that. I don’t know that Holmes is appropriate for youngsters who cannot appreciate such distinctions.

It seems to me that the world would be a much better place if more people smoked pot and fewer people threw punches. And it really does look to me as if, once again, the MPAA has demonstrated that violence is perfectly acceptable for kids to see.

Is It’s Complicated’s R rating unfair?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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